Let there be no doubt: Had General Motors created hundreds of new jobs in the last six months at its Lordstown assembly plant, the autoworkers would today be getting ready to serve as props for President Donald J. Trump’s political rally Tuesday in downtown Youngstown.
But GM has not expanded its manufacturing facility in the Mahoning Valley and, in fact, has eliminated the third shift. In addition, there have been several weeks when production of the Chevrolet Cruze compact car was halted, and several more weeks of down time may be in the offing.
Just as the self-aggrandizing Mr. Trump would have taken credit for any job creation at the plant, he must accept the blame for the 1,000-plus auto-related positions that have been lost in the region since the start of the year.
Republican Trump was sworn in Jan. 20 with the expectation that old industrial areas would receive his unwavering attention.
After all, when he campaigned here last year, he had the mostly Democratic voters swooning.
The resurrection of the steel industry with huge factories dotting the banks of the Mahoning River, the introduction of new car models with the resultant expansion of assembly lines at GM’s Lordstown plant and the explosion of oil and gas exploration in the Utica shale play were like mana from heaven for this economically challenged area.
Trump, who parlayed his success as a New York City real-estate developer into an unconventional political mission, won over traditional Democratic voters with his “Make America Great Again” slogan and his promise to set aside the North American Free Trade Agreement and other such pacts that many Valley residents blame for the loss of high-paying manufacturing jobs.
Trump made such a great impression on this easily impressed blue-collar region that he defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton in Trumbull County and made a good showing in Mahoning County. Both are predominantly Democratic counties that have long been political strongholds for the Democratic Party.
But Trump changed that with his anti-establishment campaign and his role as the Great White Hope for disaffected white, male, blue-collar voters who resented the fact that the Democratic Party in 2008 nominated a black man for president.
The eight years of Barack Obama’s presidency simply hardened their resolve to have a white man back in the White House.
Donald Trump fit the bill.
Thus, on Tuesday, the president will return to the Mahoning Valley, six months after being sworn in, finding comfort in the knowledge that his supporters are willing to turn a blind eye to all the controversy that plagues the administration.
His supporters won’t even hold him responsible for the loss of the auto-related jobs.
The end of the third shift at the GM complex in Lordstown resulted in more than 600 workers losing out in the assembly plant and 235 in the fabricating facility.
In addition, about 100 union workers at Comprehensive Logistics in Austintown were furloughed. Comprehensive Logistics does sequencing for the Lordstown plant.
Magna Seating Systems in Lordstown, where the seats for the Cruze are built, laid off 75 workers, while Jamestown Industries in Austintown, which makes the front and rear bumpers for the Chevy Cruze, shed 15 workers.
Add to those losses the weeks of down time because of the unusually large inventory of new Cruzes, and Trump’s boast about re-energizing the auto industry has a hollow ring to it.
Indeed, not only is the Cruze being passed over for SUVs and trucks because of the low gas prices, but the Cruze hatchback made in Mexico is also luring buyers away from the Lordstown built car.
And that flies in the face of President Trump’s contention that the American auto industry is toeing the line and investing billions of dollars in America.
“I mean the car industry is not going to leave us anymore. They were leaving – if I didn’t win this election, you would have lost your car industry to Mexico and to other countries. They’re not leaving anymore, believe me. There’s retribution if they leave. There was no retribution.”
Of course, Trump’s supporters in the Valley are blind to reality that it was Democratic President Obama and Democrats in Congress who saved the American auto industry with the bailout of General Motors and Chrysler.
Indeed, then real estate developer Trump publicly objected to the bailout and said the two major car companies should be forced to declare bankruptcy.
Doing so, Trump said, would result in GM and Chrysler shedding workers and re-emerging as smaller, more efficient companies.
Yet, he received strong support from autoworkers. Go figure.
The president will be greeted Tuesday at the Covelli Centre as a conquering hero, even though Obamacare is still the law of the land, “The Wall” is still a talking point, NAFTA and other trade agreements remain in place, the United States is still a part of NATO, the infrastructure program is just a proposal, and while America has pulled out of the Paris climate treaty, Trump has said he’s willing to find common ground with other signatories.
Finally, here’s a bit of news that came out last week while the president was pushing to get Americans to buy goods “made in America.”
The gold-plated pens he uses to sign laws are assembled in Rhode Island but lacquered and engraved in China.
Even the Boeing jet Trump posed with to showcase America’s industrial might is 30 percent foreign made.
Such is the reality of the 21st century global economy that billionaire businessman Trump not only understands, but participates in through his numerous global investments.
But when he addresses his followers at Tuesday evening’s political rally – his presidential campaign and not the White House announced the visit and is handling the arrangements, he will deliver a jingoistic speech, knowing all the while that the Trump brand is global in its reach.